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Interchange Could Both Solve, Create Problems

The full-cloverleaf interchange planned for Westfields Boulevard and Route 28 in Centreville will be a boon to many motorists. But an unfortunate side effect may well cause traffic nightmares for others.

Both issues were explored at Tuesday night's meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee. The project is one of six interchanges being constructed along Route 28 courtesy of a public/private partnership agreement between Shirley Contracting Corp and The Clark Construction Group and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

"We're working on design, right-of-way, utilities relocation and construction," said VDOT's Susan Shaw. "The construction schedule was based on funding and [project] scope."

Design work on the Westfields interchange has been underway for five months. John Harmon, project manager representing Shirley/Clark, said the interchange will be positioned almost exactly where the intersection is now.

"STEP ONE is to construct a detour interchange, beginning around May 2004," he said. "It should take four or five months, weather depending, and be completed by fall. Then we can begin work on the bridge — the ultimate interchange." Estimated completion date is fall 2005.

Planned is a four-lane bridge of Westfields Boulevard traffic crossing Route 28, plus two auxiliary lanes, with a trail on one side and a sidewalk on the other. The project is also being designed to accommodate 10 lanes total, in the future, if they're someday approved.

"And we can put in CD [collector-distributor] lanes to exit people from the mainline before they get to the interchange," said Harmon. "East and west, [the bridge] will tie into Park Meadow [Drive] and Stonecroft [Boulevard]."

He said the bridge won't touch Route 28, and traffic on both Westfields and Route 28 will be free-flowing. Biggest challenges so far, he said, were wetlands, relocating utilities and fitting everything into the design constraints.

Bill Keech, president of the Westfields Business Owners Association — and one of the original developers of the Westfields Corporate Center — has asked VDOT to work with him on maintaining an attractive entrance into Westfields, and Shaw agreed. Tuesday night, however, he said the county will have to deal with some other serious issues.

"Once the interchange is completed, traffic flow on Route 28 and Westfields Boulevard will be fine," he said. "But there'll be two logjams where Westfields comes from six lanes into two lanes at Poplar Tree, Stone and Walney roads. And unless the county addresses it at some time in the future, we'll have a tremendous traffic jam on Route 28, in both directions, at rush hour."

Noting that all the right-of-way for the interchange was dedicated by Westfields, Keech also suggested that, during construction, detoured Pleasant Valley Road traffic should be routed to Route 28, instead of to Westfields. And in response to a question from Gil Kesser of Sully Station, Harmon said there'll be "no reduction in lanes on Westfields during construction."

FRANK OJEDA of the Rock Hill Civic Association said that "making the road larger at Poplar Tree only invites more traffic to go through there, plus speeders. This interchange will only draw more people to use it as a cut-through and exacerbate an already bad problem."

But Kelly Baker of Gate Post Estates and Craig Trumbull of Sully Station both supported Keech's views. "It seems that the planning doesn't go far enough to support the auxiliary roads," said Baker. Added Trumbull: "I echo Mr. Keech's words about the traffic and the impact on our community."

Shaw agreed, as well, saying, "When the interchange comes on line, Westfields may be a hot spot." WFCCA's Terry Spence said, "It will be. This will draw more traffic into narrow streets, and it won't go away; we've got to do something to address it."

While WFCCA's Chris Terpak-Malm said the actual interchange "will make a big difference and will make my driving easier," she, too, acknowledged Keech's very real worries. "Stone Road to [Route] 29 is a disaster," she said. "At rush hour, you sit five times through a red light."

She also noted that Sully District's former transportation commissioner, the late Dick Frank, wanted Walney and Braddock roads designated collector-distributor roads so they'd remain open to Route 28. Otherwise, said Terpak-Malm, "You create a great freeway, but trap people in the neighborhoods beside it." Shaw urged the WFCCA to keep fighting for it because "it would require public funding, and there is none."